Today marks my third anniversary of meeting Carol, aka Jiminy Cricket. Every writer needs a Jiminy Cricket during the creative process, just as much as the same writer needs one when he is in danger of having too much Don Julio Anjeo or turning the wrong way down a one-way street in downtown San Francisco. Always let your conscience be your guide, but without a Jiminy Cricket, I’d be condemned by the monkey butler to hole up in a burning shack of rabid ferrets.
Jiminy reads SFF. A lot. She reads faster than Evelyn Woods after a coke-dusted waffle chased by two cups of Peet’s Major Dickason’s, no cream, xtra sugar. She also reads a lot of other interesting shit like Barbara Cartland and Arthur Conan Doyle that I wish I could read, but, y’know, writing sucks up a lot of time so I have to cherry-pick. Having said that, I just stayed up for three days reading Stephen Ambrose’s intensely fascinating account of building the first American transcontinental railway. Robber barons! Bilking the government! Blasting through miles of granite in the Sierra Nevada with massive yet undocumented losses of Chinese workers! Ah, good times, good times.
I actually started writing The Fifth Circle two months after Jiminy came into my life. We’d just returned to San Francisco from a few sad days in NYC (Jiminy’s mom had passed unexpectedly) and I took an afternoon nap where, on account of all the Jack Daniels, Vicodin, and Ambien I had on the plane, I righteously crashed and had a dream about haw scary it would be to turn into a dragon and wonder what the hell was gonna happen next.
Based on this odd “what-if” and a six-pack of Pacifico, I sat down as any self-respecting lunatic would do and set out to write a short 5,000 word story about what would it feel like. Well, it turned out to be a bit longer—on the order of 8x—and I finally showed my wrenched and smelly first draft to Jiminy. First thing she said was, “Um, ya know you can’t end it here. There are WAY too many questions unanswered. It needs to be a book.” And I wrote back something like, shit shit shit because I knew she was right. It was either that or Dante’s pestilential ferrets alone in the dark.
I wish everyone—not just writers—had a Jiminy Cricket in their life. To hold the mirror up to you when you haven’t emotionally (or physically) showered or shaved in a week. To be at times a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader as well as Lucrecia Borgia and Dorothy Parker’s evil love child. When I write dreck, Jiminy pulls no punches and never lets her jackboot off my throat. When I have a decent idea, she helps to make it better. When I unaccountably do something right, she says, “it’s good.” And that’s the highest compliment in my world.
Happy 3rd anniversary, you lovable insect you!